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Dell Inspiron 16 Plus (7610) review: A nippy machine for those on a budget

A laptop built to a precise budget, and that shows in places - but there's no disputing its bang per buck

The Dell Inspiron 16 Plus
Price
£833 exc VAT
  • Speedy processor
  • Big touchpad
  • Dim display

IWe're not sure what a collective noun of Dell XPS laptops is – a luxury? – but the Inspiron 16 Plus breaks away from this month's pack to focus on value. And in terms of specification, it's hard to criticise. Yes, it's an 11th generation Intel Core processor rather than 12th generation, but you also benefit from RTX 3050 graphics, 16GB of memory, a 512GB SSD and a 3K 16in display. Quite a haul for £999 (including VAT).

For the vast majority of people, the eight cores of the Intel Core i7-11800H will be more than enough. A score of 6,219 in PCMark 10 hammers that home, and there's nothing to be ashamed of when hitting 7,273 in Geekbench 5's multicore test or 9,673 in Cinebench R23. Or 265 in the IT Pro benchmarks come to that. Yes, an equivalent laptop with a Core i7-12700H – most notably the identically priced Huawei MateBook D 16 – will return around 11,000, 12,000 and 340 in those three tests, but the Inspiron 16 Plus remains one nippy machine.

There's gaming prowess here too. At 1080p with settings set to High, the RTX 3050 pushed the Inspiron to 46fps in Metro: Exodus, 66fps in Shadow of the Tomb Raider and 52fps in Dirt 5. Switch to the screen's native resolution and those figures drop to 25fps, 38fps and 35fps, but you can still get playable frame rates if you drop quality settings to Low.

Is it too cruel to suggest that a Low setting makes more sense bearing in mind the quality of the panel on offer? Perhaps, as it's by no means awful: a peak brightness of 270cd/m2 is fine for use inside, and it covers 96% of the sRGB gamut with an excellent average Delta E of 0.53. It just lacks punch. We found ourselves repeatedly pressing the brightness button hoping for that little bit more, and the whites aren't as white as we like when using Word or Excel. We prefer the MateBook's screen, despite its lesser 1,920 x 1,200 resolution.

The lack of colour coverage also means films look a fraction drab when placed next to a high-end laptop or iPad, but I can't complain about the speakers' quality. They're powerful and capable of handling delicate music with surprising care. I wouldn't use it as a party speaker, but it's fine in a hotel or student room.

Dell has also packed in one of the biggest touchpads we've ever used. We willl stick my neck and say it's actually the biggest, at 134 x 90mm. It's as smooth and responsive as you'd expect, with its literal downside being the weak-feeling button presses that betray this laptop's budget inclinations. 

There's even a number pad here, with a sensible (but subtle) gap between it and the main keyboard. The keys are largely easy to hit, but a couple of decisions made us curse when typing. We got used to the slim Enter key, but the half-height up/down cursor keys are a real pain. The keys also lack the cushioned feel of the best keyboards, so while we appreciate the excellent backlighting and clear labelling of the function row we would only give the keyboard three stars out of five. 

Unlike the XPS range with its USB-C love affair to the detriment of all other ports, you benefit from a wide range here. One USB-A port apiece sits on each side, albeit the slower USB 3.2 Gen 1 rating, with a full-size SD card slot and 3.5mm jack on the right. Head to the left and you'll find an HDMI output and, the star inclusion, Thunderbolt 4 USB-C port.

That port also supports power delivery, but Dell provides a proprietary 130W power supply in the box. It's a chunky 550g unit, but hopefully, you won't need to carry it with you as the Inspiron 16 Plus lasted for 9hrs 25mins in PCMark's office use test and 8hrs 32mins for a looping HD video. Decent results, as you should expect from an 86Wh battery.

The battery is replaceable when it eventually degrades, with nine crosshead screws standing in your way. It's easy to remove the base but harder to replace it, but it's worth the effort. Not only are both SODIMMs replaceable, but so is the main SSD while a second M.2 2230 socket sits empty if you wish to add more yourself.

That's useful because for once you can't customise the specification here. Unless that is, you switch to the more expensive "New" Inspiron 16 Plus (the 7620 not the 7610), which starts at £1,199 for a Core i5-12500H edition. That's moving into the more expensive XPS territory, and we're not convinced the 16 Plus delivers: the "mist blue" finish is stylish in an understated way, and aluminium in the palm rest and lid is always a plus, but this still feels like a mid-range device.

Instead, the buying decision comes down to the cheaper Dell or the Huawei MateBook D 16. Each holds advantages over the other. The Dell isn't as quick in everyday tasks but is a far better gaming system, its battery life is a fraction longer and the screen resolution is higher. But the MateBook is 300g lighter, more enjoyable to use thanks to its screen and keyboard quality, and enjoys the faster CPU. It's close, but the D 16 remains our top budget choice. 

Dell Inspiron 16 Plus specifications

CPU8-core (4.6GHz boost) Intel Core i7-11800H processor
RAM16GB DDR4-3200 RAM
Storage512GB M.2 PCIe Gen 3 SSD;
Display16in non-touch IPS screen, 60Hz
Resolution3,072 x 1,920 resolution
Graphics4GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 30 graphics
Dimensions355 x 248 x 16.8-19mm (WDH)
Weight2kg
Operating systemWindows 11 Home
Battery86Wh battery
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